Is Small Always Beautiful?

indexBy Will O’Brien

A few years ago I was visiting good friends at an intentional Christian community in a large city.  This was a community I dearly loved: For many years, persons from privileged backgrounds, following Jesus’ call, had served, lived with, and developed ministries with the folks who lived on the streets of that city.  They engaged in powerful and creative prophetic witness to the compassion and justice of God, insisting on a commitment to struggle with society’s most marginalized persons.  These good saints had taught me, inspired me, challenged me, and emboldened my faith in countless ways. Continue reading

BONHOEFFER: A LEGACY OF FAITH AND RESISTANCE FOR OUR WORLD TODAY

Dietrich BonhoefferIf you are in the Philly area this weekend, check out this adventure in radical discipleship:

Saturday morning, February 17
9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Project HOME, 1515 Fairmount Avenue

Bonhoeffer is a 93-minute documentary film that tells the dramatic story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the young German theologian who offered one of the first clear voices of resistance to the Nazi regime.  Bonhoeffer openly challenged the church to stand with the Jews, and eventually joined his family in a plot to kill Hitler. His books, Cost of Discipleship, Letters and Papers from Prison, and Ethics, have had an enormous influence on people of faith and conscience seeking to live with integrity in a world of evil and oppression.  We will view the film together and discuss its relevance to our life of faith and witness, with very particular emphasis on the current political realities under the Trump Administration and a world endangered by climate change, increasing wealth inequities, and violence.  Join us for this important time of reflection and discernment.  A light breakfast will be served.  A $10 donation is requested to cover costs (though if you can’t pay, please feel free to come anyway!).

See the Facebook posting here.

If you are interested in participating, please contact Will O’Brien 
at 215-842-1790 or willobrien59@gmail.com by February 13.
For more information on The Alternative Seminary,
see www.alternativeseminary.net.
 

The Politics of Christmas in the Age of Trump

Republican Presidential Candidates Speak At Values Voter SummitBy Will O’Brien

Among the many manifestations of his project to “make America great again,” President Trump has frequently and pompously declared that “We will be able to say ‘Merry Christmas’ again!” When he spoke at last fall’s Values Voters Summit, this vow garnered the most boisterous applause. For many conservative Christians, Trump is the conquering hero who waged battle against secularism in the annual “war on Christmas” – and finally won the war. Like many Trumpisms, this would be simply pathetic were it not for the fact that it is part of a treacherous national vision. Continue reading

Triumphant

jesus christ.jpgBy Will O’Brien, Alternative Seminary, Philadelphia, PA

At Easter services yesterday, our congregation celebrated the resurrection with the requisite Easter hymns.  Though a few lesser known ones were thrown in the mix, we indulged in many of the great soul-stirring choruses:  “Up from the grave he arose,…” “Christ Our Lord Is Risen Today,…”

On a personal aesthetic note, I don’t bear a lot of fondness for some of these old classics, and their theology occasionally rubs me the wrong way.  But on this particular Easter Sunday, I was struck by how these hymns are almost without exception imbued with a brash and bold tone of triumphalism.  We hailed the mighty and exalted king.  In illustrious melody, we sang of glorious victory over foes (namely sin, death, and despair) vanquished and conquered. Continue reading

Lent with Howard Thurman

thurman.jpgBy Will O’Brien, Alternative Seminary, Philadelphia, PA

This Lent, I have using as a meditation guide Howard Thurman’s classic Jesus and the Disinherited. This book and other writings of Thurman, an African American scholar, theologian, and activist whom Vincent Harding called our “Black prophet-mystic,” were a spiritual taproot of the civil rights movement and continue to animate many people of faith who hunger and thirst for justice. Just in the first pages, his writing has revealed itself to be an unsettlingly relevant text for this season of repentance and metanoia.

Early in the book, Thurman recounts a visit to India in 1935 – a delegation of American students on a “pilgrimage of friendship.” One day, the principle of a Law College in Ceylon personally asked Thurman to have coffee. He posed a pointed question, addressing Thurman as an African American Christian: “What are you doing here?” Continue reading